Could 2017 be the year you launch or dramatically expand your business? B2B opportunities in one of these spaces could pay attractive dividends in the coming year. Whether it’s media services, consulting or tech, businesses require goods and services from other businesses in order to operate and grow. Let’s take a look at these booming sectors that have B2B players bullish on new ventures.
1. Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR)
Technology remains at the forefront of innovation, opening up new possibilities and, dare we say, realities? Until recently, virtual/augmented reality was only seen in sci-fi movies, but thanks to developers and brands pushing boundaries, it is blurring the lines between the virtual and real. We saw an example of this when PokemonGo took the world by storm (or, by species).
Potential business uses for this new reality are limitless. Here’s one example. Recently, while attending a Retail Tomorrow conference, I was able to experience virtual shopping for the first time, and found it to be truly remarkable. Walking through the virtual store, picking up items, reading their labels and tossing them into my virtual shopping cart, looking all around to see exactly what I would see if in a real store—all combined to give me a completely immersive experience. I was there, courtesy of VR/AR firm, SciFutures of Burbank, California. Ari Popper, SciFutures Founder and CEO, explains how this technology will change the way we test and sell products. “This is a unique research medium because it has a much deeper impact on the brain and creates a genuine sense of presence. Early research with System1 Research has shown that consumer behavior in a fully immersive VR setting closely matches actual in-store results and depending on the category, a correlation sometimes greater than .9. You can use VR to test almost any retail experience and this saves a lot of time and money for marketers.” Trey Holder, Managing Partner Brand Innovators Labs, sees the implications. “Imagine grocery shopping from home virtually, and finding all of the items you normally buy in a single virtual aisle created specifically for you. After filling your cart, you could drop by the store to pick up your already-purchased and bagged groceries, or have them delivered to your home.”
2. Medical Marijuana
Cannabis has been a controlled substance for many years, but federal and state governments have begun lifting restrictions. Currently, 28 states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, including eight that also allow recreational use. Although not a proponent of recreational use expansion, I have seen tremendous benefit from the medical use of cannabis-derived products for patients suffering from various maladies. The medical marijuana industry still has federal legal hurdles in the US, but in Canada medical use is legal nationwide.
“Marijuana production is federally regulated in Canada, and over the last year C$685M (about US$513M) has been invested directly in Canadian marijuana producers,” explains Aaron Keay, CEO ABcann Medicinals. As a B2B company, ABcann offers packages to the pharmaceutical industry, which then sells medical marijuana prescribed by physicians. With revenues reportedly increasing 30% per month, it appears the company is on to track with its plan to be publicly listed this year.
This kind of growth shows a strong trend in the medical marijuana industry, which in turn points to opportunities for other B2B support companies such as regulation-compliant transporters, growth capital sources and industry consultants, to name a few.
Some of the largest of all cannabis opportunities are in the tech space. Digital advancements are coming in the form of devices and apps that make it easier for B2B companies to operate at top performance. Eric Pike, Founder of CBD Natural Solutions explains how the supply chain is quickly becoming more sophisticated. “We have communities within a platform where retailers, wholesalers, and distributors can share and exchange products. Knowing inventory in real time, they can open select products to the public medical cannabis community and sell them at discounted prices when necessary, to keep inventory flowing optimally.”
3. Financial Technology (aka FinTech)
The B2B market in FinTech is quietly one of the more active areas of the market despite the fact that it does not garner a lot of headlines or attention. Still, B2B and enterprise-focused FinTech investments are driving a significant amount of innovation and growth, presenting tremendous opportunities for early adopters.
“We’re already seeing significant levels of investment from private equity firms and strategic investors all across the B2B FinTech landscape. This interest is being driven by the rapid adoption and penetration of FinTech related solutions in the B2B space. There really is no area of the enterprise that is not being addressed by FinTech innovation, as businesses leverage technology to decrease the financial-related friction in transactions with other businesses,” explains Steve McLaughlin founder and CEO of FT Partners, a leading investment bank for financial technology.
B2B FinTech is one of the major driving forces behind the unprecedented levels of infrastructure improvements showing up across the enterprise. Internal IT departments do not have the ability to develop true enterprise B2B products and services, and these product gaps are being addressed by FinTech businesses that are enabling increases in financial and operational benefits. Even your 401(k) is getting a boost from the advances in FinTech. Today, you can submit your company’s 401(k) plan and have it analyzed for fees, and then presented back to you via a customized video in real time. “We are really excited about leveraging technology to bring transparency to America’s number one retirement vehicle,” says Josh Robbins, CMO of America’s Best 401(k). “A typical small business with 10 employees would retain upwards of $1M of retirement savings by reducing their fees by 1% over a 20-year period.”
If you can produce a FinTech solution that reduces costs, increases efficiencies and leverages data in new and creative ways, now is a good time to market such a solution.
Preventive medical measures are making tremendous strides all over the world, and are quickly becoming the preferred approach to healthcare. Advancements in biotechnology are making this possible—from early detection of deadly diseases to management of one’s routine health.
It’s not just entrepreneurs developing viable business models in this field. Scientists and doctors are seeing the opportunity as well. Ixcela, a self-named internal fitness company, offers a complex blood analysis that can detect health problems in the early stages. Recognizing the opportunity to expand into B2B, the company moved from a consumer focused model to also providing services to organizations for annual checkups of their employees.
“Gut health is emerging as one of the most important factors in overall well-being due to processed food intake and modern lifestyle (sedentary and stress-filled). We at Ixcela are focused on a sophisticated yet simple test and personalized program to improve individual internal fitness,” explains Erika Ebbel Angle, Ph.D., CEO of Ixcela.
5. Content Marketing
Content marketing is reportedly on track to generate $313B in revenue by 2019, according to PQ Media’s Global Content Marketing Forecast. Businesses large and small are discovering that if they want to reach their target markets online they must get creative. Gone are the days when we were willing to accept poorly designed ads with the text, “10% OFF! TODAY ONLY!” in big, obnoxious print. Consumers today expect to get to know the brands they’re buying from, and they want to do so from a variety of sources, such as blog posts, videos, infographics, customer reviews and more.
Surprisingly, many companies are reluctant to invest in content marketing because of how hard it can be to measure results. This is especially true when comparing digital marketing to more traditional types of marketing like direct response. As a result, many marketers are left wondering if they should choose one over the other. “It’s the wrong question to ask,” says Josh Monen, a direct response copywriter and marketing advisor. “What I see working best right now is when a company is able to marry content marketing with direct response marketing. Your content should be extremely helpful, but it must also be persuasive if you want the reader to respond.”
With venture capitalists investing more than $1B in content marketing technology startups, this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon as companies recognize a growing need to have quality content produced, but may not have the internal resources to do so.
Technological innovations are at the core of B2B industries in 2017. As these sectors continue to bring about new advancements, it will be interesting to see what B2B opportunities will come next.